It’s the 17th century and people have fallen ill to the Black Death. Aiding them in their sickness is a group of witches led by Verderinde. For the compassion and caring that the witches’ code orders them to show, they are executed at the order of a man named Faust. His intentions are to gain control of their pieces of the Anima del Monde, a crystal with mystical powers. After brief trials the witches are beheaded by his executioner Heinrich. After killing the final witch, Gretchen, Heinrich is cursed with immortality so that he may wander through time thinking about his sins, and as fate would have it he happens to cross paths with Gretchen again.
The player takes control of Heinrich and must carve a path all the way to Brocken Mountain to seal away the only crystal not in Faust possession forever. In return Gretchen will remove his immortality and allow him to rest in peace.
At first glance most players probably hold their judgment for fear that it’s just another Devil May Cry or that it is in some way ripping off Dante’s Inferno based on the weapon wielded by Heinrich. It actually separates itself nicely from those titles and carves a niche into the action adventure genre. Now don’t misunderstand that for re-defining or re-energizing the genre because every player will sadly be disappointed, nothing new is added to the genre.
What really sets this game apart is that the controllable character Heinrich is immortal. He can never die in combat no matter what happens to him. Cut into pieces? No problem. Lose your head? You don’t need that. Anytime Heinrich is incapacitated a deceiving simple tap of the A button will bring him right back to life. But have no fear, there will be no easy run through thanks to the wonderful Gretchen, the witch Heinrich is bonded to. If she dies, game over. Keep her close and always know where she is, this will be far more challenging than the bosses Heinrich faces.
The most noticeable feature in the game is the large scythe that is carried by Heinrich. Don’t worry about trying to match the scythe wielded by Dante in his respected title because this scythe would surely make him cry and possibly pee his pants in jealousy. Heinrich’s scythe is multifaceted, able to be used for massive combos, throwing grappled enemies, or using in combination with magic. Four spells can be equipped using your A, B, X and Y. These allow the player to trap an enemy and then complete a finisher with a tap of the B button. The multiple uses of this weapon come in very handy when dealing with bosses due to the eight levels of their health, that’s right eight health bars.
One major issue that players should be aware of is how ridiculously dumb your AI partner Gretchen really is. This is most evident when the team fights Horda, the third major boss. After defeating her first form flying in a chariot of death, the team falls through the collapsed roof and must face her on a shifting platform. Not only will Holda shoot magma rockets at the team but she will also open small pools of lava on the platform, and guess who will stand right in them and never move? Gretchen. The most complicated part of this game is babysitting the witch, she will find a way to screw up that perfect combo you are trying to smack a boss in the mouth with, just so you have to run to her aid and prevent her from dying.
Gameplay is surprisingly bug free and very fluid, that is until you reach the bosses. Expect to lose the characters in the odd camera angles and the buttons the player are directed to tap at the end of each boss fight may sometimes not take and force you to refight the boss.
The combat system was care free and the players should really enjoy the mix of scythe combos and magical attacks. The story was very well done but overshadowed by the horrible acting from the voice overs for each character. Quaint one liners and dull commentary take away from the overall story and the million cut scenes don’t help. Now that may be a slight exaggeration, but don’t be surprised when Heinrich takes six steps and triggers a cut scene, five more steps? Cut scene again.
The game was rather entertaining, but the multi-leveled bosses and the multiple obstacles each one throws at players will make players toss items in disgust. These boss fights were very poorly done, and one of the worst I have ever seen in games. If not for these poorly done bosses the game would have rated much higher.
It could still provide some players with a few hours of enjoyment. For those glory hunters on the 360, the achievements are rather self-explanatory and not real complicated.
The price tag of 60 bucks is an extreme reach, so I would wait until it hits the 15 and under bin at your local game store.
Developers: Namco Bandai
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360